Meat Chickens (also known as Broiler Chickens)
Over 550 million chickens are slaughtered each year in Australia, enduring a short, miserable life in confinement – typically crammed in dark sheds – some of which contain 60,000 chickens. They cannot express natural behaviour, such as spreading their wings and bathing in dirt. Due to such confinement, they are de-beaked so they won’t peck one another. It’s natural for hens to ‘sort out’ a pecking order, but with such volumes, impossible for them to do so – instead they endure a frustrating fight for food full of hormones, accelerating their growth.
To maximise profit, chickens eat food pumped full of hormones to promote rapid growth. They are typically slaughtered at 2kgs reached in as little as 35 days, rather than 96 days without the drugs. Adolescent chickens exist in oversized, adult bodies, still sounding more like a baby than a mature chicken, uncomfortably immobile in such heavy bodies before being slaughtered. This is the only life they will ever know. Many suffer horrible deaths before slaughter as their hearts and lungs can’t support their heavy bodies.
The Australian Model Code of Practice for Domestic Poultry provides no protection for meat chickens – rather, it assists the industry providing exemptions from prosecution. This means practices such as feeding dead chickens to other chickens, and sheer neglect, are believed to be commonplace. An example of neglect in Victoria (Tip Top Livestock) saw more than 86,000 chickens across six sites starved to death while those who survived had resorted to cannibalism, showing signs of distress, lameness and parasitic disease, as reported by the Herald Sun in 2015. No jail time was served.
At the slaughterhouse, chickens are usually clamped upside down on a conveyor that typically leads to an electrified water bath which is supposed to stun them, then onto a throat-cutting device or person - still alive and panicking. From here they proceed into a scalding tank to loosen feathers before plucking. There are cases where chickens are steamed via the 50-degree scolding tank while they're still alive.
Lives not lived
The natural lifespan of a chicken is 8-10 years. Compare that to 35 days, of which the chicken cannot express themselves or live any kind of meaningful existence. Chickens are recognised to display intelligent, complex behaviour, are very social creatures, and have distinct ways of communicating with one another. They can recognise individuals and studies have shown they worry about the lives of their fellow chickens and the future itself (and in modern-day Australia, for very good reason).
What are we doing?
• Raising awareness of the issues
• Investigating and documenting reports of animal cruelty in Queensland
• Working with a number of other animal rights groups to conduct ground-breaking investigations to expose the true cost of meat chickens to the public
What can you do?
• Don’t consume chicken or chicken products
• Don’t buy ‘back yard chooks’ because this still funds a lot of the cruelty it takes to produce saleable chickens
• Write to your local leaders and politicians about chicken exploitation and cruelty on farms and in businesses around you
• Write to supermarkets and fast food chains about the cruelty of chicken farming, and ask them to stop stocking cruel products and start stocking more vegan alternatives
• Talk to people about chicken suffering – many people aren’t aware of the suffering the ends up on their plate
• Seek out and sign petitions
• Consider going vegan, a way of life that tries to avoid animal exploitation and suffering